Lakota Pochedley, a Slavin family descendent, Potawatomi Leadership alumna and an employee of the CPN Cultural Heritage Center, has recently been recognized by UNITY Inc. in the organization’s ’25 Under 25’ awards. The national organization aims to foster the spiritual, mental, physical and social development of American Indian and Alaska Native youth.

Pochedley is one of only 25 Native American youth to be recognized with this award. The honorees will receive hands-on experiences over nine months that are designed to build on their individual achievements. She said that she is most excited about meeting other Native youth making a difference in their respective fields and learning from them. 

“I’ve been in school for 20 years now,” Pochedley said. “This program will provide me an opportunity to learn outside of a school environment and share what’s going on in Native America with the youth who live in the Pottawatomie County area.”

Although Pochedley only recently began working at the cultural heritage center, she is not new to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She participated in the Potawatomi Leadership Program in 2011 and was an intern in the language department in the summer of 2012. During the summer of 2013, she worked at the PLACE and the FireLodge Tribal Youth Program. In 2014 and 2015 she volunteered with CPN’s Cultural Mentorship Program. Pochedley recently began a new position as the cultural education specialist as she finished her master’s degrees at the University of Texas at Austin this spring.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Lakota in various capacities for almost five years,” Cultural Heritage Center Director Kelli Mosteller, Ph.D., said. “I have seen her grow from a college student trying to figure out her thesis project and how it relates to the CPN community, to her current position as cultural education specialist working with local Native youth by teaching culturally-based education workshops. When I saw the criteria for what UNITY was looking for in their ‘25 Under 25’ candidates I knew she would be a perfect choice. She gives of her time and her talents freely and is a great example and mentor for so many of our local young people.”

In her role at CPN, Pochedley will help mentor tribal youth on the outskirts and rural areas of the CPN jurisdiction and train them to mentor others. Pochedley’s goal is to use culture as a method of prevention and an opportunity to provide balance in the lives of tribal youth.

“We are trying to build relationships to build a stronger community particularly among the youth throughout Pottawatomie County, allowing a lot of these kids to see past just their school, their block and their city and really get to know one another, from Shawnee to the southern part of the county. When these kids are grounded in their culture, it shows them they have an opportunity to succeed,” Pochedley said. 

Pochedley earned bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies with a specialization in Native American studies at Columbia University in New York City. After completing her undergraduate degrees, she moved to Austin and completed her Master of Arts in Cultural Studies in Education and Master of Education in Social Studies Education with a secondary teaching certification, while also completing a portfolio in Native American and Indigenous studies in May.

To learn more about the program, Lakota Pochedley please visit